The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) through its Elections Observation Mission (EOM) on Monday, 6 November 2023 officially released its report on women’s political participation in Liberia.
The report is coined “EISA Election Perspective Series” on Women’s Political Participation in Liberia.
It reported that only seven female candidates won elected positions in the just-ended elections.
The report covered the 10 October 2023 presidential and legislative elections across the country, focusing on Women’s Political Participation in Liberia with the question: Is Liberia Making Progress?
In its Election Perspective Series, EISA explained that in a quick fact checkout, of 1,030 candidates for the House of Representatives seats, 152 candidates were women.
It also observed that out of 100 senatorial candidates, seven were women.
EISA also reported that 22% of independent candidates were women, and only two political parties achieved the 30% female quota during the nomination process.
Furthermore, the report pointed out that out of 32 political parties, six parties had no female candidates, and six female candidates were elected to the House of Representatives and one to the Liberian Senate.
“Elected candidates – seven new lawmakers, six representatives, and one senator, were elected during the 10 October polls,” EISA reported. It noted that this figure is less than the previous election outcome in 2017.
“Regrettably, for many women aspirants, however, the results of the 2023 elections were not kind. At the voter registration stage, 1,237,257 women registered on the voters’ roll1, slightly less than half the total,” said EISA.
In high-population counties such as Nimba, Bong, and Montserrado, EISA said more women were registered than men.
At the senatorial level, it added that there were seven women out of the 100 candidates and two female presidential candidates.
“The period before the elections also marked the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NEC [National Elections Commission] and political parties to promote women’s political participation by ensuring not less than 30% of women on party tickets,” the report stated.
EISA further indicated that after the candidate nominations were finalized, only two political parties met this target, adding that data from the NEC shows that new female lawmakers are now representing some of the most traditional counties in Liberia, such as Grand Cape Mount, Grand Gedeh, Bong, and Lofa.
EISA narrated that although three female incumbents were defeated, one senator was gained, a total of three females in the Senate presently.
In Montserrado, it said, the largest county with seventeen districts, only one district was won by a female candidate.
“So, whilst the numbers may appear to be low, women are being represented in strategic counties. The Unanswered question with the number of female independent candidates, what does it mean for the accountability of parties and candidates themselves? EISA pondered.
With no consequences for parties that do not meet the 30% quota, EISA wondered if there are any other ways through which women’s participation and representation can be enhanced.
“Additionally, how are women who constitute half of the registered voters voting? If women are not voting for women as the results suggest, then some work needs to be done by female candidates to attract voters and understand their voting behavior.”
Meanwhile, EISA has suggested that female candidates should not assume that they automatically attract the sympathy of female voters or that female candidates would project a more convincing platform for women.
However, the group recommended that moving forward to increase women’s chances in future elections, support for candidates needs to be more strategic, based on feedback from voters and their own experiences.
“Women have shown confidence in themselves and have not been deterred by barriers imposed by political parties [or] society. However, stakeholders should now examine the realities of the 30% quota agreement and the loopholes that seem to be working against women,” said EISA.
It noted that many foresee the gap in women’s participation and representation widening if a multipronged approach is not adopted in preparation for the next elections.
“This includes: 1) conducting studies to understand women’s voting behavior 2) engaging political parties on their nomination processes and the possibility of recruiting, identifying, and mentoring potential females in preparation for elections and 3) working closely with potential or unsuccessful candidates to analyze their performances against successful candidates to improve their chances,” EISA recommended.—Press release